Gay and Lesbian Dating: Why It Can Feel Difficult
Do you identify as a member of the lesbian and gay community and have found it increasingly tough to find a stable partner? Do you find yourself going on one first date after another and not feel able to see that person again? Have you ever felt alone or undesired as a single member of the lesbian and gay community? You are not alone in wondering about these issues, and there are perfectly reasonable explanations for all of these questions.
As an affirmative therapist, I take into account all of the different explanations as to why finding a partner can feel like a tireless, endless search. There are many others out there experiencing your similar frustrations when it comes to lesbian and gay dating. Below are some of the research-based explanations as to why dating in the community can feel difficult. Hopefully after reading some of these, you may feel less mystified and more understanding about why your search for gay and lesbian partnership may feel never-ending.
Substance Abuse: The problem of widespread substance abuse is a huge complication of dating in the gay community. In fact, if a couple is attending couples therapy and it is discovered that either partner is abusing drugs or alcohol, couples therapy must immediately be stopped and resumed when the partner has seized the substance abuse and receives adequate ongoing treatment (through AA, AlAnon, rehabilitation, etc.). Under this same principle, an individual abusing substances will not be able to fully commit to a healthy partnership in which both partners are completely whole. What is more problematic with this phenomenon is that, according to studies, members of the lesbian and gay community who enter substance abuse programs have more severities in their abuse patterns than heterosexual abusers. This is probably due to a variety of issues such as societal oppression, a conflicted home life, or an increased risk of violence. Research also shows that even though alcohol abuse has decreased over the past two decades in this population, young gay and lesbian individuals are still very likely to abuse heavy drinking and illicit drugs.
Family of Origin: One’s home life, the type of parenting they received, and their own past coming out process can be huge predictors of how lesbian and gay people can function in dating. Did you know that positive mental and physical health in young lesbian and gay members and their family acceptance are hugely related, according to research? Did you also know that family acceptance of gay and lesbian adolescents promotes greater self-esteem and less probability of substance abuse? Having all of these in mind, you may guess that your dating life would be more fulfilling and healthier if your relationship with your family is also complete and strong. In my experience as a gay man, I have witnessed many gay and lesbian individuals who have tumultuous dating lives and also come from a family life that was either very unstructured or heavily rigid. Research, as well as my own experience, demonstrates the importance of why family work is necessary in order to have meaningful partnerships later in life. Couples need to be comfortable being seen as vulnerable with each other, and this can be very difficult if either partner has had non-confronted difficulties or a high conflict relationship with their families of origin. Family therapy can sometimes be absolutely necessary for one to feel more capable of committing to a stable relationship.
HIV Prevalence: Contrary to popular belief, gay men are not the most likely to contract HIV. However, HIV is still an ongoing complication in the world of dating in the LGBT community. The rate of HIV contraction has gone down since the epidemic in the 1980’s, and the prevalence (people living with HIV) has increased! This means that people are becoming much more careful when it comes to safe sex and healthy sexual habits as they have become more mindful of HIV transmission, while the ones who have been diagnosed are living with HIV and receiving adequate treatment. This contributes to the phenomenon of HIV and dating—many couples are becoming HIV discordant (one spouse/partner HIV+, one spouse/partner HIV-). While this can be healthy and safe for couples who are receiving proper HIV education and utilizing appropriate intervention techniques, it can also present a complication in the relationship as far as the HIV+ partner fearing that they will transmit it to the HIV- partner as well as the HIV- partner fearing transmission during sex. This can also trigger other underlying attachment wounds in the relationship such as fear of abandonment and fear of failure in either partners.
I hope that reading about some of the many factors that contribute to the difficulties of finding meaningful partnerships in the LGBT community has been helpful and educational. As a member of this community, I feel that it is my duty to send out the message that no matter how difficult and overwhelming it may feel to date in our community, you are NOT alone in this! With the proper understanding and self-insight, finding a substantial relationship as well as steady partnership does not have to be as difficult as it may seem.